I read a question from a newly minted home-based worker who was wondering how to deal with the challenges of staying focused. As more and more employees are sent to work in home offices by their employers or as more workers take off on their own and spread their entrepreneurial wings the challenges of working in a home office become more apparent. I have worked out of a home-based office for a long time. Some days it is easy, other days it is a challenge. Rather than just give my opinions how to best work I reached out to my network of home-based workers and asked them for their tips.
Tips from pros
Some people just go all out all the time because they love what they do. Chris Fields is one of those people. He has no problem sitting for hours and working away. Though I know for a fact he will get up and go to a workout pretty regularly.
Tammy Colson Zupan said that when she is in the regular office she gets a break when someone stops by for a chat, but when working out of the home office she found that actually scheduling breaks worked for her.
Jessica Miller- Merrill says she keeps a firm calendar and focuses by keeping her office door closed. She tries to get out to an appointment once a day to break things up. She all mentioned that good communication with her husband helps both of them and allows a bit of flexibility.
Sharlyn Lauby says she schedules everything including exercise every day and running errands during the week. She has that flexibility because she will also work on the weekend and in the evenings. Her focus is to deliver. Customers don’t really care when the work gets done.
Janine Truitt offers that scheduling everything and treating her days as if she was going into an office, helps her to structure her day and stay on task. With no schedule nothing gets done.
Doug Shaw also treats it like he is going to work. He says “Walk to work. Leave home, take a short stroll and return to start work. Go home in a similar way. Schedule calls to colleagues i.e., folk in your network who inspire you and shift your thinking. Have a plan sometimes and be random sometimes too. Don’t forget to get dressed.” That last bit is important.
I had a similar story from someone long ago who would leave his home through the front door. He had an office in the basement but he would never go through the house. He would drive down to a store and buy a paper (that is how you can tell it was awhile back) and a coffee, drive back and go to his office through an outside door. Like Doug he would reverse the process to “go home.” I adopted that process for a long time and it worked quite well. It also forces you to get dressed.
Heather Bussing says that sometimes you just have to goof off. When you find yourself clicking links to avoid work then it is time to goof off. She says “When I goof off, I goof off with all my heart.” She also suggest coffee and chocolate.
Mary Ellen Slayter says “I’m way more productive at home, so I’m not sure I accept the premise. But my best productivity tip overall is to shut down/close your email for 1-2 hour chunks. Makes it easier to knock out your projects.” She is correct. The “ding” of arriving email is a siren call to lose your focus. So if you have to concentrate you may want to shut it down.
Ben Eubanks uses another tip I have tried, though I am sure he is far more successful at it than am I. He works one focused chunk of time in the morning before he checks email or social media. Then he checks, then he works another focused segment.
Other tips Knowing your mortgage has to be paid and you are self-employed is a major incentive according to Cathy Missildine. Other distractions are dogs. Lois Melbourne takes hers to the doggy daycare when she has to concentrate.
Lastly families are big distractions too. You have to pay attention to them but at the same time they have to be trained that you are at work. China Gorman says she puts a sign on her office door. My wife, Sherry Haberman, who has a laser focus when she works has a major distraction to deal with, me. She says “I just zone you out.”
Hopefully these tips will help you be productive in your home office. If you have some additional suggestions leave them in the comment section please.